The Pennsylvania Chautauqua’s popular series of summer programs hasn’t been cancelled because of COVID-19 concerns — but it has been altered.

The series of informational lectures has migrated to cyberspace and, rather than being held in the Chautauqua’s Hall of Philosophy in Mount Gretna, programs are being hosted on Zoom.

“Typically we’re getting in the range of 25 to 50 people, which is a much higher turnout than we expected,” said organizer Morgan Smith. “We get more and more people joining every week.”

A typical audience at previous in-person Chautauqua events ranged from 50 to 100 people, she said.

Smith, a Mount Gretna Visitors Center employee who has been facilitating and organizing the Zoom events, said they’re not seeing many walk-in visitors these days.

“We’re getting a few, especially on Wednesdays through Sundays when the Jigger Shop is open,” she said. “Most people are looking for hiking maps and asking for things to do, which isn’t a whole lot right now.”

Read More: Jigger Shop now open for takeout

But the Chautauqua programs are catching on, she said.

“All people have to do is send us an email,” Smith said. “We can add them to the list to receive the Zoom links. Then, all they have to do is click the link and join.”

The schedule has been abbreviated a bit, she said, since some activities — like the organ recitals and a children’s fairytale breakfast — were “almost impossible to do through Zoom.”

But most of the discussion-based events were easily adapted, said Smith, who also works in the IT department at Elizabethtown College and, this summer, has been helping Mount Gretna residents stay in touch with their families with Zoom.

COVID-19 has caused a great many changes to the summer schedule throughout Gretna, a woodsy resort town in the Appalachian foothills. The Jigger Shop, for instance, delayed its opening by nearly a month, shortened its hours of operation and began selling food only for takeout service.

The Pennsylvania Chautauqua in April called off the Mount Gretna Art Show, scheduled for Aug. 15 and 16, due to coronavirus concerns. Gretna Theatre announced in May that its 2020 summer season at the playhouse had been postponed to 2021, and Gretna Music, which also offers performances in the playhouse, cancelled or rescheduled most of its summer events to next year as well.

Read More: Gretna Music to determine fate of remaining summer concerts, continue publishing shows online

Mount Gretna Lake & Beach opened on June 20, although the number of daily admissions are limited. The Mount Gretna Tour of Homes & Gardens self-guided walking tour will be conducted virtually.

The Chautauqua programs started in late June. Smith said most the lectures run for about 45 minutes, followed by about 15 minutes of Q&A with the audience.

Read More: [Library Letter] Pennsylvania Chautauqua takes LVC faculty book reviews online

Although most of the attendees are Gretna residents who would otherwise be attending in person, Smith said they’re also getting participants from outside the region.

“We’ve had people joining us from Arizona and California, for instance,” she said. “We’re getting people who typically would be here for the summer but can’t be here because of the virus.”

Upcoming programs are free to attend, begin at 10 a.m. and include:

  • “Confronting the Holocaust: A Teacher’s Experience Visiting Holocaust Sites in Poland” with David Dunsavage (July 16 )
  • “Via Dolorosa: A Specious Tradition” with Dr. William Stotler (July 23)
  • “Great American Poets: Carl Sandburg” with Jesse Waters (Aug. 7)
  • “‘Old’ Christianity for a New Age: Recovering the Faith of Jesus” with Dr. Darrell Woomer (Aug. 20)
  • LVC Book Reviews
    • “Cat’s Cradle” by Kurt Vonnegut, reviewed by Andrew Owen (July 14)
    • “The Angel and the Assassin: The Tiny Brain Cell that Changed the Course of Medicine” by Donna Jackson Nakazawa, reviewed by Stacy Goodman (July 21)
    • “The Rationing” by Charles Wheelan, reviewed by Lori Thomas (July 28)
    • “Irony and Outrage: The Polarized Landscape of Rage, Fear, and Laughter in the United States” by Dannagal Goldthwaite Young, reviewed by Diane Johnson (Aug. 4)
    • “Morphing Intelligence: From IQ Measurement to Artificial Brains” by Catherine Malabou, reviewed by Jeff Robbins (Aug. 11)
  • Mount Gretna School of Art Lectures
    • “Keith, Jasper, Joan, and Me” with Jessica Tam (July 15)
    • “Painting and Drawing the Landscape through Experience, Memory and Imagination” with Aaron Lubrick (July 22)
    • “Painting With Doubt” with Aubrey Leventhal (July 29)
  • “8 Dimensions of Health” with Janice Balmer (July 17, 24, 31, and Aug. 14, 21, 28)
  • Gloria Mast Art Lectures (Aug. 5, 12, 19)

Also on the schedule is “Toys with PA Roots” with Susan Asbury at 7 p.m. Aug. 21.

For more information or to sign up to receive invitations to the Zoom events, visit the Pennsylvania Chautauqua online, send an email to, or call 717-964-1830.

Do you know a Lebanon County organization with an interesting story to share? Give us advice on what to feature next!

Give the gift of local journalism.
If you are thankful for what LebTown brings to the community, consider joining our cause as a member. Members get an inside look at our publishing schedule each week, plus invites to our members-only Facebook group and happy hours.

Sign up for an annual membership using the link below, and we’ll give you a free LebTown mug at the next happy hour.

Learn more and join now here.

More LebTown coverage of Mount Gretna

Tom has been a professional journalist for nearly four decades. In his spare time, he plays fiddle with the Irish band Fire in the Glen, and he reviews music, books and movies for Rambles.NET. He lives with his wife, Michelle, and has four children: Vinnie, Molly, Annabelle and Wolf.


LebTown membership required to comment.

Already a member? Login here

Leave a comment

Kindly keep your comments brief and respectful. We will remove comments that do not abide by these simple rules.